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Monday, May 13, 2013


Read this post earlier to day -

I am not at all sure why we want to control the way students move through material.  Even if it material we are selling them do we have to control the path as well as the content?  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Where did you earn your credit part 2

For a few months I was a part of the "Granny Cloud". That means I was partnered with a school in Columbia (an experiment in moving beyond India) in reading a d talking with school children. It wasn't specifically a Hole in the Wall, in fact, my volunteer time was sponsored by a Columbian school and the children were provided with technology to communicate with me by the school. It's wonderful that Sugatra Mitra won the TED prize this year, but I think we need to be careful when we look at what the Hole in the Wall project and the Granny Cloud has shown us.

The people who have successfully skipped college and become amazingly successful came from very successful backgrounds. They had a lot of support to begin with. Yes, Indian and Columbian children can learn on their own, but can they learn everything they need without guidance? Without assistance? And if everyone is learning everything on their own where is the future knowledge coming from? Research universities do quite a lot of.... research.

Much knowledge acquisition is still easier with guidance of some sort. And much research is still easier when a group of people is gathered together in one location whether or geographic or digital. These twin goals of the university seem to be forgotten in the debate on the irrelevance of higher education, whether it occurs face to face or digitally.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Where did you earn your credit?

From Tony Bates,
Students need clarity rather than confusion about what they need to do to get a university place, but above all they need a rationale and fair system with as few barriers as possible. MOOCs are not particularly helping with this, but they are opening up the discussion about what should count for credit in or admission to a university program, and it’s about time.
No kidding.  Clearly we need to be careful as having a canon of learning that many people know is important to civilization as we know it.  I would also never say that learning critical thinking skills and writing skills is not important.  Really though, do you learn how to write in that freshman composition class with its five essays?  Or are your skills more of a compilation of other sources?  And if they are, how can a university value those other sources and give you credit for your skills?  Unfortunately that question has recently led us to an expansion of high stakes testing.  Surely there are more ways to assess credit from sources other than traditional classes from regionally accredited institutions.  And, at the risk of sounding incurably romantic, there is an entire population at risk here - all of those world wide whose parents are not able to support their children for four years of college.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gathering Credits

First daughter is attempting to graduate a semester early.  That means she is gathering up all of the college credits she earned (or maybe earned) in high school -- AP and dual-enrollment (CU Succeed) and figuring out what she could take online this coming summer and transfer back into Eckerd.  It's a ridiculously complex process for a single semester of college.  And I do understand why we never bothered back at the beginning of college when we all assumed she would want the full 4 years. Last week I also talked to a nephew who ways he has around 160 credit hours and yet no degree. Possibly he has the same problems gathering up credits from a variety of sources and feeding them into a program.

I am impressed by students who come to StraighterLine and take both tests and classes and then manage to transfer them to a college or university where they count towards a degree.  I can not imagine the average student taking enough random MOOCs and any other sources of credit and putting them together in something close enough to a degree that some college somewhere would stamp "completed" and a BA on it. It's a great thought, but someone has to do the organization and someone has to be able to sit down with these students and figure out where the holes in their education really are.  In a world like this do completion programs shrink to 1 semester? Smaller?

Thursday, January 31, 2013


The finance piece of MOOCs is important and it still looks to me like only StraighterLine is addressing it.  I read yet another article on poor pay for adjunct instructors.  Will mentor pay be any better?  (Assuming MOOCs move us towards a mentor model rather than the traditional faculty on the stage model.) 

In the online world it does feel to me like the interaction between learners and instructors and between learners and other learners is necessary to developing  critical thinking skills.  Both of those forms of interaction require skilled activity on the part of the instructor which translates into time on task.   If education becomes more individualized that will possible require more time on task... and more funding.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MOOCs again

Are we really all going to learn from the best? And do the best really all work at Ivy League universities? I think my community college background is showing here, but I have some doubts about the Ivy League approach being taken by Coursera, Udacity, and EdX.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Grading and Learning

How much does the process of grading get in the way of a conversation about the content with your students? How do you move it out of the way? Or conversely, does the process of explicit evaluation help the conversation?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Still thinking about the future

I liked this article:  I especially liked the wish that we would all focus on pedagogy.  I completely agree that there has been too  much focus on video and reproducing lectures.  Sure that is one way to get content to someone, but there are many other ways that might be more effective.  I love the idea of gaming and situation analyses.   In my class, with my limited time and technical skills I have tried to make a few of the assignments relevant -- teach your neighbor or write an analysis for your boss kind of thing.  That only goes so far though.  My hope is that organizations like the Gates Foundation will spend their money creating really interesting courses that approach learning and teaching in different ways, maybe including the lecture, but not focusing on it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Future of higher Ed

Okay I could not resist the post title since it is still the first week of January. And it's a silly title as it implies a disintegration or disappearance. That's not what is happening though .... Or maybe it is a disintegration in the sense that the landscape is not as carefully maintained as it once was. Certainly students have more options now than they had even a decade ago.

The largest change is that colleges and universities are beginning to allow students to have those options and to integrate them into their college degree plan. As the pool of 18 year olds whose parents are willing and able to fund four years of college gets tighter more types of colleges find themselves looking at other demographics. And other demographics come with baggage... err... learning... from other places. They have more skills, learning, and understanding picked up on the job or from workplace education classes or from random classes from many colleges and universities. And they want credit for those skills and those learning experiences. How to assess that learning and integrate it into the current AA or BA is perhaps the question for the next few years. We don't want to lose the strengths that come from a liberal arts education, but we also need to truthfully assess our students as they come to us. And that doesn't mean asking them to take classes on material they already have a solid understanding of, even if they picked that understanding up in a non-traditional place.

The future of higher ed is exciting as long as we understand that learning can take place apart from the traditional academic campus and as our students become more integrated outside of campus they will want to see that reflected on their degree plans.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Who is not ciritcal of MOOCs?

I have been reading critiques of MOOCS, of which there are legion.  The best I have seen is here:  The bottom line for me is that there is no business model.  Everyone teaching appears to be paid by someone else.  This of course is a strength of StraighterLine -- there is a business model.  I have to say I am insanely curious about the outcome of the College Algebra experiment from the perspective of the MOOCs.  Will learners pay more for a name brand? And if they do will adjunct faculty earn more for teaching in the future?